President Trump’s speech before Congress last night was highly interesting from a rhetorical and strategic perspective. Obviously, he was trying to make a transition from campaign firebrand to presidential statesman in one night, and the reviews suggest that he succeeded. That is a unique accomplishment.
This puts Democrats and the rest of the political left in a bit of a bind. While remaining firmly committed to the policies he has advocated thus far, Trump changed his tone in a way that can irrevocably alter the dynamic of the debate, by adopting a much more sympathetic persona which will make his opponents’ immense hostility toward him seem decreasingly justifiable.
The Democrats and the press will recover their footing quickly, of course, and they will resume their rhetorical incursions, which their position as fully out-of-power party will seem to oblige them to do. Trump will likely respond in kind as the mood takes him, though he will retain in his rhetorical quiver this template for more statesmanlike presentations which he can disarm the opposition. Last night’s speech and the response to it indicate that the regnant style of debate is changing, and in Trump’s favor.
This emerging change in tone will benefit all of those who have tired of the sneering partisanship of the past eight years. Few would have thought that Donald Trump would be the person to achieve that much-needed alteration.
After spending three months in denial and six weeks at the peak of anger, the Democrats and the progressive left will soon begin to move on from anger to bargaining, step three in the five stages of grief.